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Bericht zum Vortrag von Prof. Dr. Hyug-baeg Im

Professor Hyug-baeg Im

Professor Hyug-baeg Im


News vom 14.12.2012


“Korean Democracy after Democratization in 1987 and Prospects for the Presidential Election 2012”

Mr. Im began his talk by explaining about democratization of South Korea at the end of the 1980s as part of the ‘third wave of democratization’. He pointed out that besides major achievements since 1987 there still had been serious defectives that can be accounted to the ‘simultaneity of the non-simultaneous’, i.e. modern and democratized political institutions such as laws, procedures and rules, and pre-modern or undemocratic practice, especially resilient regionalism, delegate presidency, and feudal party structure, during the ‘Era of the Three Kims’ (1987-2002). The post-Three Kims Era (2002-2007) was characterized by progressive and democratic developments such as the rise of internet democracy, active civil society, an ‘internet revolution’ (or internet democracy), and a ‘second turnover’ of the government.

However, according to Mr. Im since the Lee Myung-bak-government South Korea experienced a stark regress of its democratic achievements. President Lee was elected as an ‘economy president’ with a landslide victory in 2007, but during his five year term the middle class shrunk, participation rates decreased further, and human rights and freedom of press were tremendously constrained.

As for the upcoming elections Mr. Im stated that the outcome of election will be decided by voters’ choice, which, however, will be constrained by structural conditions, external factors, and historical path dependence. In particular, regionalism, generation, and ideology are going to be the major factors influencing voters in their choice.

Analyzing strengths and weaknesses of the two main presidential candidates, he found Geun-hye Park having the advantage of her strong followership that manifests in a relatively evenly distributed support among various regions. Also, as her nickname “queen of elections” suggests, she knows well how campaign effectively. Concerning her weaknesses Mr. Im assessed that Ms Park is overshadowed by the legacy of her late father Park Chung-hee who was a military dictator during the 60s and 70s.

Candidate Jae-in Moon’s main strength can be said to be his integrity and his past as a human rights lawyer during the democratization movement of the 1980s. Also, in addition to his support base in his home province Kyŭngsang and Pusan he enjoys support in the province of Ch’ungch’ŏng and Chŏlla, too. The three weaknesses of candidate Moon that Mr. Im analyzed besides his ‘too gentle’ image are: being identified as the ‘heir’ of late president Roh Moo-hyun, the landslide loss in the 2007-elections, and the ‘hardcore followers’ (nobba) of late president Roh Moo-hyun who are now aiding Mr. Moon.

Answering a question during the Q and A session after his presentation, Mr. Im pointed out that the missile launch by North Korea would neither have positive nor negative effects for any of the candidates, even though commonly it would work in favor for the conservatives. Since, first of all, under the Lee Myung-bak-government relations with North Korea became very tensed due to the faulty North Korea policies of the government, and, secondly, even though the South Korean government attempted three times to launch a rocket (with the same Russian technology), failed. So this event could not be used for propaganda purposes during the campaign.

Mr. Im also made clear that the ‘internet democracy’ as he called the developments during the last ten years should be understood as only a complementary form of democracy and not as one that replaces representative democracy. It helps to spur participation and interactivity as one could observe in other countries such as Libya, Egypt or the USA, but, as of now, is prosthesis not democracy itself.


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